Buddhist stele

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, 7th- 8th century
Limestone with traces of pigment
H x W x D (overall): 59.1 x 52.5 x 17 cm (23 1/4 x 20 11/16 x 6 11/16 in)
China, Henan province, Luoyang, Likely from the Longmen grottoes
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone


bhumisparsha mudra, bodhisattva, Buddha, Buddhism, China, cintamani, fly whisk, lion, Tang dynasty (618 - 907)

Probably from Longmen Grottos, Henan Province, China [1]

To 1912
Yamanaka & Company, New York to 1912 [2]

From 1912 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company, New York in 1912 [3]

From 1920
The Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920. [4]


[1] Jan Stuart, 3/10/2003, Curatorial Remarks.

[2] Undated folder sheet note. See S.I. 380, Original Miscellaneous List, p. 120, Freer Galley of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


This Buddhist stele represents a central, crowned Buddha seated on a lotus pedestal flanked by two bodhisattvas standing upon lotus bases.  The Buddha wears jeweled chains. Crowned Buddhas were associated with at least four Buddhist deities, including deities in Esoteric Buddhism.

The iconography and style of carving are unusual. Because of a strong similarity to some images at Longmen, it seems likely that this stele originally came from one of the Tang dynasty caves there. Longmen, a Buddhist cave-temple near Luoyang, Henan Province, was begun in 493 and over the course of almost four hundred years of Chinese imperial patronage, the site was transformed into a richly endowed complex with over 2,300 caves and niches in cliff walls adorned with sculptures. In the early twentieth century some sculptures and fragments were removed from Longmen and entered the international antiquities market, but at the time the objects often were not properly identified. Today scholars are conducting research to see if the original sites of these sculptures can be determined.

Published References
  • Chang Qing. Search and Research: The Provenance of Longmen Images in the Freer Collection. vol. 34, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 2003. p. 22, fig. 11.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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